SIXTEEN YOUNG TEENAGE SCOUTS, male and female, around the altar tonight. And I’m impressed, as ever, both by the leaders and by the Scouts themselves.

There’s hope for all of us when young teenagers have so patently grasped, with next to no prompting beyond warmth of welcome, that

“God’s about Love”. “Not a man, not a woman. But God”.  “Seen in people”. “Light, bread and drink”. “Everything we need to stay alive”. “Hope”. “Someone, Jesus maybe, who’s there when we’re scared”. “Good: in human beings, animals and nature”. “Creator”. “One who helps me make things, like sense, or bacon for tea”.

Hope when teenagers  describe the parish church as

“WOW! big! expensive, beautiful, art, craftsmanship, beauty, something that people have made to help them worship someone bigger than themselves. Something that people give or create because they think it’s important to celebrate community. A place that encourages all people to create good things. A bell that sounds so good I want one for home.

Hope when one lad, having ascended the pulpit to try out the microphone said: “Welcome in the name of God and the Holy Christ”. Hope in the attentive silence that waited upon a young girl’s reading Psalm 23. Hope in many of them understanding the origins and meaning of their names … Samuel, Judah, Grace, Sarah, Elizabeth, Jo …

Hope in their unselfconscious accounts of the things they’d created today: an apple pie, homework, breakfast, 10 made beds, bacon for tea, a model of a Matisse work of art, a friend, a fool of myself, a good conversation.

The second time this week that I’ve found myself looking forward enormously to the next breath of fresh air. Next week there’ll be another sixteen around the altar. And one or two of tonight’s “may come back to have a go at reading the Psalm”.

A place that encourages all people to create good things? Well you’d expect me to mention “Church”. But another such place is “Scouts”. They’re familiar with gathering around an altar. Familiar with what Barbara Brown Taylor calls “An Altar in the World“. Scouts. Bethel. A house of God. “Surely the Lord is in this place. This is none other than the gate of heaven”.